Preview: Walsall

A third win in a row, and the first-time that we’ve won all three games in a three-game week since 2001 . The league campaign has really hit lift-off now, with this upcoming Checkatrade Trophy tie with Walsall feeling more like a distraction than a chance to mount another run towards Wembley.

With this being the fourth game in the space of 10 days – and with a league game to be played on Saturday – Mark Robins is almost certain to stretch the competition’s rules on rotating the side to the maximum. After losing the opening group game of this competition, if we lose this game and Shrewsbury win theirs, we are out.

Running through the potential changes to the side, while this game could be a good opportunity for the likes of Liam O’Brien and Dion Kelly-Evans to get a run-out, Robins may end up prioritising other positions in which to rest the incumbents in order to keep within the competition’s rules.

Possible Line-Up

Chris Stokes seems the likeliest member of the back five to be rested, and although Ryan Haynes has only just returned to training, Mark Robins can choose from Chris Camwell and Jordan Shipley – who have both acquitted themselves well at left-back in cup games this season. With Doyle and Kelly both likely to be rested, Ben Stevenson is certain to come into the team and his midfield partner probably depends on whether Shipley is used at left-back, with Callum Maycock more than capable as an alternative central midfield option.

This game is also a chance for Marc McNulty, Stuart Beavon and possibly Peter Vincenti to make returns to the starting line-up after recent injuries. McNulty is the likeliest player to come in for Nazon for the upcoming league game against Barnet, so Robins will surely will want him to get minutes under his belt. Maxime Biamou looked jaded towards the end of the Crewe game, which enhances the case for Beavon to start. Vincenti, if fit, seems likely to come in for Jodi Jones, who it wouldn’t hurt to keep fresh for more important games.

Last Time We Met

Although relegation had already been confirmed by the time we last played Walsall, the players produced a performance of character and quality to display that they hadn’t downed tools. Most notably, the forgotten man Vladimir Gadzhev had an excellent game in central midfield, and George Thomas scored the only goal, which ultimately further secured his future away from this club. There was also a red card for Walsall in the second-half of that game which effectively ended the contest.

How Are They Doing?

This season has seen Walsall continue their inconsistent form under manager Jon Whitney. Whenever things look like breaking out into all-out crisis, Whitney always somehow manages to stumble across a winning formula to ease the pressure on him – although Walsall have only won one game out of their past six in the league.

Possible Line-Up

While Erhun Oztumer is still, by far, Walsall’s key attacking player, their attacking options this season have been bolstered via the loan signings of Tyler Roberts and ex-Sky Blues forward Dan Agyei. Agyei seems to have improved slightly on the inconsistency he showed with us last year, but Roberts has stood-out more with his pace and direct-running adding an extra dimension to Walsall’s attacking options.

The nature of this competition though means that Jon Whitney is likely to give opportunities to some of Walsall’s more promising younger players from their fairly successful academy. The likes of Liam Kinsella and Reece Flanagan have had a fair few first-team opportunities in recent years without establishing themselves in the team, while there are hopes around the club that defender Kory Roberts and winger Maz Kouhyar (once on the books at Coventry City) will develop into first-team regulars over the next few years.

Prediction

Walsall as both the home side and the higher-division side start are favourites for this game by default. On any other occasion though, we would see this tie as a chance to spring something of an upset, but with Robins likely to name a heavily-changed side, it all depends on how seriously Walsall are willing to take this game too.

If Walsall name a full-strength XI, they’ll win this fairly comfortably. If some of their better attacking players are rested, there’s probably a fair chance that a spirited Sky Blues side packed with youngsters looking to stake a first-team claim could go out and get the win – especially given the fairly positive mood around the club. Being my usual pessimistic self though, I’m going for a 1-0 defeat.

Advertisements

Preview: Walsall

Not that it really matters much now, but the performance on Monday against Rochdale was, by many accounts, one of the worst in what has been a terrible season for the club. With nothing to play for now, we head into the last home game of the season with the focus primarily on what’s going to be a long and arduous summer for the club – Wembley already seems like a distant memory.

Possible Line-Up

Although performances and results don’t really matter at the moment from a fans’ perspective, Robins still has important lessons to learn about his team from these final few games. Perhaps it was beneficial to have been reminded on Monday just where this set of players are weak, having already learnt what their strengths are during the recent run of wins.

It isn’t helpful that Robins hasn’t been able to pick from a fully-fit squad, but it has provided him an opportunity to look at the various options available to him. Presuming that Stuart Beavon, Kwame Thomas, George Thomas, Ruben Lameiras, Jodi Jones and Kyel Reid are all fit for this game, Robins has a difficult decision to make over the complexion of his attacking line-up. In defence, it would be useful to focus on players who will be around for next year – although it’s likely that Robins won’t have as much control over who stays and goes as he might like.

Last Time We Met

It was in the midst of that upturn in form under Mark Venus when opposition managers were commenting on us that we wouldn’t be around the relegation zone for long that we faced Walsall at the Bescot Stadium. A decent first-half performance saw us take the lead via Andy Rose, only for a typical wonder goal from Walsall’s Erhun Oztumer to earn the home side a share of the points after they produced an improved second-half performance and possibly should have gone on to win the game.

How Are They Doing?

Having lost almost the entirety of a squad that narrowly missed out on automatic promotion last season, Walsall fans should really be content with a comfortable mid-table finish given that’s really about par for a club of their resources. However, with some of the players they had been able to recruit over the summer and some decent runs of form over the campaign, there’s also a genuine sense that they should really have been able to at least trouble the play-offs.

There are doubts surrounding manager Jon Whitney who stepped up from his role as physio to manager last season following Sean O’Driscoll’s disastrous reign at the club. The main bone of contention from Walsall fans is the sense that he’s tactically naive and has been unable to make the most of the talent at his disposal. Nonetheless, a switch to a back three formation around January led to an excellent run of form and suggested that Whitney was learning the ropes as a manager.

While the diminutive attacking midfielder Erhun Oztumer is the star of this side – he’s scored 14 and assisted seven this season despite being in and out of the team at times – Walsall have several other useful attacking players that have meant they’ve been able to get results when their star man hasn’t been picked. Winger/attacking midfielder Kieron Morris has been in good form of late, Franck Moussa has intermittently demonstrated the inspiration he showed during his time with the Sky Blues, and the playmaker Florent Cuvelier has had a strong season in midfield after overcoming injury issues that have previously dogged his career.

As mentioned earlier, a switch to a back three enabled Walsall to produce their best form of the season between January and February. Key to that working has been the form of wing-backs Jason McCarthy on the right and Joe Edwards on the left. Remarkably, neither McCarthy or Edwards are natural wing-backs, with the former having played much of his career in central defence and the latter being a right-footed central midfielder. Nonetheless, they have supplied the width and energy required to make a back three a truly effective formation.

Another key player for Walsall this season has been Neil Etheridge in goal, one of few survivors from last season’s team. However, Etheridge has missed the past few games with injury which could well mean that he has already played his last game for the club. In his stead has been Craig MacGillivray who has had to be patient in waiting for an opportunity after arriving at the club around three years ago and has been solid in his recent appearances for the side.

Prediction

This is a game between two teams with little to play for – we’re already down and Walsall are safely ensconced in mid-table. That being said, Walsall have been able to pick up results over the past few weeks to demonstrate that they’re not already on the proverbial beach, while Mark Robins has shown since he came back that he’s not going to tolerate a dip in standards despite our fate having looked already sealed.

Nonetheless, the mentality of either side heading into this game is up for question and it’s going to make it a difficult game to predict. I’m hopeful though that our players will maintain the effort they’ve shown in the recent home games and the should be enough to win this. I’m calling this as a 1-0 win for us.

Preview: Walsall

Two wins of differing quality in a week and we’re starting to look like a team that could quickly move up the table. It’s fair to say that we had our fair slice of fortune against both Oxford and Rochdale, but it was pleasing to see the team apply themselves with so much dedication in order to ensure that we held onto six very valuable points.

This not-really-or-maybe-it-is-derby against Walsall is going to be a good indicator of this team’s ability to pull away from danger. There was pressure to get the wins last week, whereas a defeat in this game wouldn’t be such a disaster. It’s one thing motivating yourself for a game where you absolutely have to win, but being able to summon up the levels of concentration and determination on a week-to-week basis is going to be the difference between a season of struggle and pushing towards the higher reaches of this division.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

A massive part of last week’s victories was a sense of continuity in team selection and formation. However, the injury to Chris McCann may force Mark Venus to make a tactical shift, especially after Ruben Lameiras made the difference against Rochdale when shifted into a central position. As well as Lameiras played last week, the overall performance wasn’t good and losing the presence of McCann in the centre of the park contributed to that. It’s a genuine dilemma whether Venus maintains tactical continuity or makes changes to get the best out of one player.

Elsewhere, we’re probably going to be looking at a settled side. The defence is improving, without looking fully convincing, thanks to Jordan Willis really stepping up to the plate over the past few games. The balance of the front three of Sordell, Agyei and Lameiras doesn’t feel quite right, but it seems better to stick with a winning side rather than make changes in the elusive search for improvement.

Last Time We Met

Our meetings against Walsall last season saw us up against what was probably the best footballing team in the division over the course of the campaign. A trip to the Bescot on one of the last hot days of summer 2015 saw the Saddlers teach a Sky Blues side high on confidence after winning its first three league games a footballing lesson, pretty much playing us off the park in a 2-1 scoreline that flattered us.

It was much closer at the Ricoh Arena back in January of this year where Tony Mowbray’s Sky Blues were the better team for around 60 minutes, taking the lead via a Chris Stokes header from a Joe Cole set-piece, but crucially failing to add to that slender advantage. An attempt to sit on that lead was undone when a classic Walsall combination from last season earned the Saddlers a point, the mercurial Romaine Sawyers switched the play to the enterprising Rico Henry, who had the freedom of the left-side of the pitch, Henry’s cross was then turned home by the goal-poacher Tom Bradshaw.

How Are They Doing?

Like ourselves, Walsall have had to completely rebuild their team following a failure to secure promotion and have been inconsistent for much of this season, although to a lesser extent than the Sky Blues. Manager Jon Whitney stepped up from caretaker manager towards the end of last season but is still to fully convince as a manager in his own right, constantly making big tactical and personnel changes from game-to-game.

Walsall have however found some form in recent weeks and have lost just once in the last nine games. While that run seems to be related to Whitney playing a more settled side, it’s fair to say that the decision to sign Erhun Oztumer to replace Romaine Sawyers has played a large role too.

Although both Oztumer and Sawyers occupy the ‘sometimes misunderstood, mercurial, lower-league playmaker unlikely to ever fully fulfill their potential but will be all the memorable for it’ role, the two are as contrasting as it’s possible to be within that spectrum. The lanky Sawyers dictated play from high up the pitch, providing momentum and openings for other players to score goals The tiny Oztumer is more interested in the spectacular, shooting from ridiculous distances and taking risks most other players wouldn’t even think of taking. Oztumer has seven goals and three assists already this season, Sawyers managed five goals and eight assists in the entirety of last season.

Despite a summer exodus, a combination of smart recruitment and players already at the club stepping up has given Walsall a squad bountiful in useful attacking options. Academy-produced youngster Kieron Morris has built on a decent supporting role last season with three goals and two assists as a regular starter this time around.  Franck Moussa is someone Sky Blues fans will know all too well, a player on that Oztumer-Sawyers spectrum, who frustrates you until he goes out and wins a game on his own.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

Walsall also have another, less fondly remembered, former Coventry City player in their ranks in Simeon Jackson. The decision to replace Tom Bradshaw with the Canadian forward was roundly mocked but Jackson has five league goals to his name this season which probably suggests he was a victim of poor service during his season at the Ricoh Arena. The giant Amadou Bakyoko has stepped up from the academy after several nondescript non-league loan spells over the years and has provided an alternative figurehead in attack from time-to-time. There’s also record signing Andreas Makris to call upon, but he’s struggled for form since arriving in the Black Country from Cyprus this summer.

Walsall’s defence this season has been the least functioning part of the team, with Whitney’s predilection for tinkering leading to some disjointed performances. Centre-backs Jason McCarthy and Kevin Toner have regularly been used at full-back, but the leadership of James O’Connor and the goalkeeping exploits of Neil Etheridge have seen things settle down defensively for Walsall in recent weeks.

Prediction

This is quite a strong Walsall side but one that can be beaten if we play with cohesion, and get some luck along the way. Given the different manners of the wins last week, there’s no reason to not to believe that we can’t make it three wins in a row but it still feels like there are defensive errors waiting to happen and our attack is still far from convincing.

I’m going to sit on the fence with this one and predict a 1-1 draw.

Preview: Peterborough United

When Sky picked out this game for live coverage back in January, this looked set to be a contest between two of the bigger clubs in this division duking it out for automatic promotion. Now though, it’s a game between the two teams 20th and 21st in the form table over the past six games. With eight players between the two teams called up for international duty too, it’s fair to say that Sky have picked a game for their subscribers in danger of being a damp squib.

A point in our last game against Swindon was okay I suppose but the performance did highlight just how far we’ve dropped over the past few months. Whereas before we would have relished taking on one of the division’s form sides at the Ricoh Arena, we set ourselves up to nick something rather than put them to the sword.

In fairness to Mowbray, all of our bright attacking players are out of form leaving us short of that explosive quality to eviscerate teams. We could probably have done with adding one or two more exciting attacking players to the squad to freshen things up but the plan it seems is to sneak our way back into the play-offs with more performances similar to the Swindon game to follow.

This game is all about managing the impact of losing Jack Stephens, Adam Armstrong and James Maddison to international duty. The loss of Stephens is perhaps the biggest blow because it looked like we had found a back four that worked against Swindon and we’re now looking at playing either Romain Vincelot or Stephen Hunt in defence to get us through this game. Although he’s struggled of late Armstrong is the only out-and-out goalscorer we have in the squad. Maddison hasn’t been starting lately but does leave us short of an impact sub.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

In attack, it’s likely that the main change from the Swindon game will be Jacob Murphy in for Adam Armstrong. Murphy showed with a brace against Colchester back in November that he can play just behind Fortuné effectively although the dip in form and confidence could well limit his effectiveness. With Cole and Rose in our other attacking positions, Murphy is our biggest goal threat in open play which makes his performance one of the most important.

Following an impressive win for the under-21s on Monday night, there is a chance for a few of those involved to stake a claim for a more regular place in the side. Jodi Jones drew the headlines with two goals and an assist, he could well be the injection of flair this team has needed. Gael Bigirimana also had a strong performance and could start this game should Vincelot drop into defence. Ruben Lameiras and George Thomas could also find themselves involved too with a longer shots for involvement including Jack Finch, Dion Kelly-Evans or Cian Harries.

Last Time We Met

Having once again failed to beat Swindon, it’s nice to know that sometimes these weird bogey team things happen the other way. Out of our last six meetings with Peterborough, we’ve beaten them five times and on three occasions comeback dramatically having been thoroughly outplayed in the first-half.

Our most recent meeting with them must have played out as a nightmare for Posh fans. Peterborough looked to be a different sport to us in the first-half at the Ricoh back in October. Dominating possession, we couldn’t even get close to them as they tapped-tapped-tapped their way around us. A 2-0 lead at half-time was thoroughly deserved and there didn’t look to be anyway back for us.

The turnaround was partially down to Peterborough manager Graham Westley’s decision to get his team to time-waste and feign injury rather than go for the jugular and also the sheer determination of our beaded warriors Romain Vincelot and Jim O’Brien to haul us back into the contest. It was Vincelot who bundled home a set-piece 10 minutes after the break before Jacob Murphy blitzed past three Peterborough defenders to put it on a plate for Armstrong to equalise. The winner from Armstrong was pure class as he took out two defenders with one touch before curling the ball into the far corner to cue delirium.

How Are They Doing?

I don’t think enough can be said about just how good Peterborough were for 45 minutes against us back in October, they were by far the best team I’ve seen play against us at this level. They had that snake charmer-like quality of hoarding possession, lulling you into a stupor with a thousand sideways passes before knocking a perfectly-weight diagonal pass to knock you off balance and working the ball effortlessly into the back of the net before you realised just what had happened. If there was any team that I saw going on to win this division at a canter, it was Peterborough.

That inability to see out the win against us was an early sign of just why they have fallen off so badly over the past few months. For a while after that game, they kept that metronomic domination of games and could completely dismantle teams. The loss of Conor Washington, a striker who was made to look brilliant through the sheer number of chances Peterborough created, was a big loss as it has transpired but the negative tactics and constant tweaking from manager Graham Westley completely disrupted that momentum too.

On the loss of Washington, Peterborough decided to take the scattergun approach to replacing Washington, bringing in four new strikers to replace the loss of one. Understandably, the disruption caused by attempting to integrate so many new players hasn’t been in any way helpful. The most promising of the four is a player who’s scored in his last two appearances and started the season with Nuneaton Town, Aaron Williams. Similar to Washington, Williams was regarded by Nuneaton fans as an energetic but fairly wasteful forward.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

Behind the forward line there is plenty of quality but it appears that Westley’s random selection policy which often involves playing players completely out of position has proven detrimental. Marcus Maddison is a languid winger with excellent delivery and a lethal long-range shot and has been played from time-to-time at full-back. The simply magic Erhun Oztumer, scorer of a stunningly nonchalant long-ranger at the Ricoh, has been dropped at random by Westley for no reason at all.

Chris Forrester in central midfield can run games with his passing, Jon Taylor on the wing has bundles of energy and is a real goal threat, Michael Bostwick at the back is one of the most committed defenders in the division. There is so much talent in this side but they’ve been poorly managed to be sitting where they are in the league.

Prediction

The poor form of both of these teams makes this game hard to predict. Although both sides may be feeling that they’re turning a corner, if the evidence of our last performance against Swindon is anything to go by, the process of corner turning may well be too late to salvage anything from this season.

Worryingly, Peterborough have been scoring goals even in their poor run of form whereas they’ve dried up for us and we’re without our top scorer and a key defender. Though I think that Peterborough are slight favourites for this game, I can’t help feeling that we can pull something out of the bag here. I’m predicting a 1-0 victory for the Sky Blues.

Preview: Peterborough United

Just when it looked like the run of draws was over, we somehow managed to extend it one game further with a late capitulation against Swindon. Not being at the game, it’s hard to ascertain just how concerned we should be about the late collapse. Staying positive for now, let’s just put it down as just one of those things that happen in even a successful season.

It would be pretty sweet to justify that positivity with back-to-back wins in back-to-back home games. With the three teams above us in danger of pulling away and those below closing in, failure to seize momentum could see us losing touch in the promotion race. Tony Mowbray’s usually managed to pull out results when the doubts had been mounting during his time here, a return to winning ways against Peterborough would be timely.

It’s going to be an interesting to see how Reice Charles-Cook reacts to finally conceding a goal in the league. Swindon’s first goal was a piece of individual brilliance and their second was a penalty, which Charles-Cook can hardly be faulted for conceding. Losing that air of impenetrability could possibly affect his confidence and without Reda Johnson in the side, the rest of the defence may be feeling less certain.

As ever, the main question heading into a Coventry City game at the moment is, how are we going to line up in attack? Tony Mowbray is still experimenting with his various options, now a quarter of the way into the season.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

Joe Cole should be much closer to full fitness having had two games last week and a whole week to recover, it was hardly ideal that he had to come off against Swindon at half-time, even if we did score twice without him. With Cole likely to start, it’s unlikely that someone like Fortuné and Tudgay will start too as a hold-up striker. Cole will want pace and penetration ahead of him rather than someone playing with their back to goal.

Just who those players will be is the selection issue for Mowbray heading into this game. Jim O’Brien has performed ably since returning to the team and his industry is important to have amongst our more ephemeral performers up front. Ryan Kent remains a source of frustration, so much talent, so little end product, and could be a contender for the drop. With Jacob Murphy now our specialist substitute, if there is a change to be made it would likely be Lameiras for Kent but the latter may still be preferred for his ability to run in behind.

Last Time We Met

We pulled out two unlikely wins over Peterborough United last season. The first coming almost exactly at this time 12 months ago where Steven Pressley’s demoralised Coventry City side fell two goals behind and looked well-beaten. Inspired by the returning Frank Nouble and Reda Johnson though, the Sky Blues rallied in the second-half to win the game 3-2, leaving the entire Peterborough team utterly shellshocked at just what had happened.

At the end of March this year, Tony Mowbray’s Coventry City side travelled to London Road more in hope than expectation at getting result against a Peterborough side in decent form. In a game that the hosts probably edged, Blair Turgott made his one and only notable contribution for Coventry City in stealing in for the game’s only goal. A defence inspired by a rock-solid Aaron Martin and arguably Lee Burge’s best performance in goal held on for a valuable three points.

How Are They Doing?

Peterborough are always billed as promotion contenders at this level thanks to the performances of players such as Craig Mackail-Smith, Britt Assombalonga and Lee Tomlin still fresh in the memory of many observers. Since returning to this level three seasons ago, Peterborough have been on the decline with the players stepping into the shoes of the aforementioned proving to be pale imitations. Things were made worse this calendar year following Darren Ferguson’s overdue sacking and the decision to replace him with youth-team coach Dave Robertson who was clearly not up for the job.

The farce looked set to continue after the frankly bizarre decision to replace Robertson with Graham Westley a month ago. Whilst Westley is perhaps a harshly maligned manager at this level, his reputation for cynical, low-quality, defensive football seemed to jar with Peterborough’s reputation as being one of the most open and entertaining teams in English football. Westley promised that he would keep to the club’s traditions and thus far has been true to his word.

The goals are flying in at all angles and from both ends at Peterborough currently, that they are the division’s highest scorers and only have a goal difference of +6 should give you a decent impression of what’s going on at Peterborough. In very un-Graham Westley manner, the key player at this moment in time at London Road is the 5 foot 3 playmaker Erhun Oztumer (aka ‘The Turkish Messi’), who has clicked into life with a multitude of goals and assists since Westley’s appointment.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

The goals have been shared out fairly equally throughout the team at Peterborough, which is down to the lack of a true central, goalscoring striker in the team. The likes of Lee Angol, Conor Washington and Souleymane Coulibaly are all decent forward options to have but none have reputations as lethal finishers.

With Peterborough’s defence being rather predictably far from water-tight, the other players to keep an eye on are in midfield. Jon Taylor, a direct and energetic winger, always looks a threat whenever I’ve seen him play against us. In a different way, Michael Bostwick has been an impressive player with his sheer presence on the pitch and is a threat with his long-range shooting. Finally, Irish import Chris Forrester has had a promising start to life at London Road, recently being compared to Michael Carrick by his manager in the press.

Prediction

This may be a side managed by Graham Westley that we’re facing, but the idea that we’re facing a cynical, defensive, stodgy team likely to start timewasting from kick-off like a typical Graham Westley team would do, would be a wrong assumption to make. The danger heading into this game is not that we’ll have so much of the ball that we’ll be caught on the counter having failed to breakdown an organised defence but that the opposition will be able to outscore our dangerous looking but profligate attack. The key to winning this game will be how our defence can contain Peterborough’s attack and how incisive we can then be on the counter-attack.

Peterborough are likely to leave gaps at the back and when teams have been more open against us, we have done a lot better than the ones looking to contain us. I’m not sure though that we are clinical enough to go toe-to-toe in an all-out slug-fest against Peterborough should the game pan out that way. I am confident of a win though, 2-1 to the Sky Blues.

Preview: Peterborough United

The losing run shows no sign of abating and if Tuesday night’s game with Oldham is any indication, we are some distance from the end of this run. What a time it is then to playing Peterborough, famous for scoring loads of goals and currently second in the division.

We've badly been missing Reda Johnson's passion.

We’ve badly been missing Reda Johnson’s passion.

It is crucial then that the duo of Reda Johnson and Frank Nouble can find themselves somewhere in the vicinity of the stadium for this fixture. This team appears to lack any semblance of character or fight without the two in the team. Powder-puff, ponderous, and increasingly, pathetic as a team unit without our captain and best striker. Whilst the loss of an inspirational captain and a physically powerful striker would be a blow to any team in this division, it has been surprising just how much it has affected this team.

So all will be well when Reda and Frank are back, that’s the theory at least. It’s kind of comforting to think that we can put a large part of our recent poor form down to the loss of two key players. Provided both are fit enough to play on Saturday, we will learn whether it has been a total coincidence or not that we have been desperately woeful as a result of injuries rather than just simply being crap.

The only player to emerge from that shellacking against Oldham with any credit is the youngster James Maddison. Whilst his goal from a free-kick appeared to be incredibly fortuitous, a weak effort taking a sizeable deflection off the wall, he might just be the most talented footballer ever produced by the club’s academy. We need to be careful not expect too much from him, too soon, however injuries and the poor form of others have handed him an opportunity to nail down a starting place at an incredibly young age. Maybe he just is that type of young player who is not phased by first-team football.

Should Nouble and Johnson attain full fitness in time for the Peterborough game, it will be pretty much a full squad for Pressley to choose from. It will then be a case of finding the formula that will provides defensive solidity whilst providing a threat in attack, thus far under Pressley the two seem to be mutually exclusive ideas. With sections of our fan-base losing patience with Pressley, it would take a lot of pressure away from his job if he were to avoid defeat, even better if we can beat Peterborough. Like many I desperately want Pressley to overcome this poor run of form as his vision is unique amongst Coventry City managers, hopefully this game can kick-start the sputtering Sky Blue engine.

Possible Line-Up (5-3-2): Allsop; Phillips, Willis, Webster, Hines, Haynes; O’Brien, Barton, Thomas; Maddison, Miller.

Last Time We Met

Last season’s ‘home’ meeting with Peterborough was an unforgettable game and probably the last great performance of the Leon Clarke-Callum Wilson-era. After being thoroughly out-played in the first-half, the Sky Blues were only a Shaun Jeffers goal behind heading into half-time. Posh keeper Bobby Olejnik then passed the ball to Leon Clarke who scored with a tap-in, 1-1.That joy was short-lived as the unstoppable Lee Tomlin danced through the Coventry City defence to give Peterborough a deserved 2-1 lead going into the break.

What happened next was completely impossible to predict given the dominance which Peterborough displayed in the opening 45 minutes. Leon Clarke played with a purpose rarely seen amongst those who have pulled on a Sky Blue jersey. First, he scored from a fumble from Olejnik not too long after half-time. He should have completed a hat-trick a couple of minutes later but was ruled offside. With the game reaching a close, Clarke played a slide-rule pass to Franck Moussa who made it 3-2.

The game ended in controversial circumstances as Peterborough claimed they had scored from a goal-line scramble, the referee decided not. Whilst the Posh were protesting, John Fleck played an excellent pass into space for Callum Wilson who was completely free of any defenders. Like he so often did, Wilson finished from the eventual one-on-one to make it 4-2 and a memorable Boxing Day had by all of those lucky enough to witness it.

In stark contrast, the following game was less dramatic. Early goal scored by Peterborough, header from a corner from one of the shortest players on the pitch, Sky Blues low on confidence, game over.

How Are They Doing?

Peterborough were gloriously erratic last season. winning 23, losing 18 and drawing just 5 times in the league. They did though win the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, thanks in part to one of Josh McQuoid’s two goals for the club. Despite reaching the play-offs, the season was regarded as a failure by many Peterborough fans.

This season has been an attempt to introduce some more consistency at London Road, although that always seems to be the task there. A solid start sees Darren Ferguson’s side in second place but three defeats in the past seven games shows that they are still fallible.

The loss of Britt Assombalonga to Nottingham Forest was a blow, the former Watford youngster was a goal machine at this level with an explosive burst of pace and trickery. In true Peterborough fashion, a couple of former non-league players have risen to the task of replacing Assombalonga’s goals. Joint top-scorers this season are Kyle Vassell (no relation to Darius) and Conor Washington. Vassell arrived from Bishop’s Stortford last season and struggled to make any impact  in his first half-season with the club, this year though he has been a revelation after reaching Football League standard fitness levels. Washington was another who arrived half-way through last season, his four league goals last season were a decent return but the former Newport man has already surpassed that number this time round.

Don't. Back. Off. Marcus Maddison.

Don’t. Back. Off. Marcus Maddison.

The star-man this season has been ex-Gateshead winger Marcus Maddison. A year ago he was on the fringes of the team at Gateshead before the arrival of Gary Mills as manager. Mills turned Maddison into one of the best players in the Conference last season as an Arjen Robben style winger who likes to cut inside and shoot. He can though be incredibly selfish as a footballer but his ability from free-kicks and long-range is simply peerless in the third-tier.

Heading into this game Peterborough were set to be missing two key defenders in Michael Bostwick and Jack Baldwin through suspension. The club have successfully appealed Bostwick’s sending off so the centre-back, who is also very talented in midfield, will be Peterborough’s ball-playing defender at the Ricoh Arena. Another centre-back to watch from Peterborough is Christian Burgess. A classy presence at the back, Burgess was a stand-out player for Hartlepool United last season in League Two and has made the step up to League One with ease, someone to keep an eye on in seasons to come.

A final word on a player who is yet to make a mark at London Road this season, Erhun Oztumer. Another in a long line of ex-non-league players in Peterborough’s squad, Oztumer is interesting in that he is 5 ft 3 and scored 28 goals for Dulwich Hamlet last season in the 7th tier from midfield. You wonder whether a player so short would be able to make such an impact in League One but he has used from the bench in recent weeks and can be an electric presence if he can get close to replicating his form with Dulwich (for more read here).

Possible Line-Up: (3-4-3) Alnwick; Burgess, Bostwick, Santos; Smith, Anderson, Payne, Newell; Maddison, Washington, Taylor.

Prediction

We’re getting to the stage now where we are in such bad form that we could just produce a freak performance and surprise everyone, including ourselves. By their very nature it’s hard to predict when those performances will happen. It could come in time for this game against Peterborough, it might be weeks or months away. If we do upset Peterborough it will be because a number of things have changed, most likely one of those will be called Frank Nouble and another Reda Johnson. Whilst Peterborough under Darren Ferguson are hard to predict, they will relish playing a Coventry City side currently with little presence in attack or defence.

My prediction for this game is very much with my sensible hat on. A 2-1 defeat for the Sky Blues.